Irish PEN honours Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature and pays tribute to Imprisoned Writers around the World

‘When another writer in another house is not free, no writer is free.’  Orhan Pamuk


PEN aims to promote literature and defend freedom of expression, and the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International works on behalf of persecuted writers worldwide.

In addition to its work on behalf of individual writers, the Committee creates campaigns on issues affecting freedom of expression, such as Religious Defamation which is specifically relevant here in Ireland with the recent introduction of laws to punish blasphemy.

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International acts to recognise and assist persecuted writers everywhere. The WiPC currently monitors the cases of 700-900 writers across the globe each year, and lobbies governments and offers moral support to imprisoned writers. Over the years, many writers have been released from prison, and many campaigns have realised success, largely due to the international pressure brought about by PEN and other organisations.

WiPC campaign activities include protest letters, lobbying governments and public representatives, and public awareness raising. A very important part of raising awareness is the writer’s Empty Chair.  It has become a custom at PEN events where writers are gathered, to include an Empty Chair to symbolise a writer who could not be present because they were imprisoned, detained, “disappeared”, threatened or killed.

At Irish PEN’s most recent event, this weekend’s Award Dinner to honour the outstanding achievement of Joseph O’Connor, tribute was paid to persecuted writers around the world with an Empty Chair.

Please show your support for Irish PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, and our campaign to reform Ireland’s blasphemy law, by signalling your support on our website and facebook page.  Please contact our WiPC secretary Emer Liston, at, for more information.

For further details on Irish PEN’s statement on blasphemy, click here, or contact PEN International WiPC at



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